Space and Time by Susannah Sharpless

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SPACE AND TIME by Susannah Sharpless ‘15

dď ¤ written after violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Anna Polonsky performed Ravel, Lutoslawski, Saariaho, Franck, and especially Messiaen on February 5, 2015 1: Space The pianist sits and waits in her red shoes for the violinist to herald synchronization, as a moth makes circles out of the difference between darkness and light, unites them in his untraceable orbit. If music could spool out, spill into anything but organized time, why waste it, dividing space by fours or threes or twos or the windings of a wild moth in and out of the column of light far above where there is only sound and dark and the absence of it. I have walked ears filled with layered joys through the world. When I exit my dorm and the sun hits my face my first step soars: that I can set it to music, that first real moment of moving through space, gold sun glinting off the white snow, set to something thick orchestral echoic, swell hitting as legs do earth, blood does veins, that little round world I exist within, from place to place the little round world which is mine only, deep and furrowed under the icebound tree, and makes me silent, and makes me spangle silver upon

getting to share this suddenly, to be not alone, pared down to my raw sunlit core, but among others in the up-high darkness of the rounded stage, the circling moth and the keening of the violin and the strumming of the piano, wherever and whenever.

2: Time Ad libitum, the program says, “means that the violin and the piano play without any coordination whatsoever; they play their parts independently and then give each other a cue when rhythmic coordination resumes,” but Wikipedia says it can mean more simply “to play the passage in free time,” free time, like the ordinary time of the Bible I can’t help but be reminded of, named because and in spite of its mystery. Ordinary time before the suffering comes and the penance follows, before the heralding of the ordinary celebration: again nothing has ended. Ordinary and absurd, to delineate time, as if time could be known by anything more definite than the fact of its passing, as if the time I spend silent couldn’t as easily be the time of music or a time to refrain from music, and probably is, apart from me. Everything happens anyway in time, whatever it is that time is: liquid or sound or the sweet smooth spread of light by wind. So they memorize it ad libitum, they read it off sheets, they know it by heart: the way time was free in someone else’s hands, once and long ago, translated into song

at least, pain from a life memorized like scales, counter-harmonies, chords and inversions, compound and simple meters, the way a loved one walks, the slope of a mother’s shoulders, all by memory, all by heart: pour la fin du temps, as if, somehow, time would end even after the passing of flame and ash, even after the flashing and shadow when it didn’t, it goes on, they know it by their hearts, song from concentration camp, from an extraordinarily painful life, or even an ordinarily painful one, by heart, yours and its, able to play it anywhere where there’s a violin at hand, a piano, red shoes, the moth of some knowing whispering its way through the dark and back again, drawn to the light of what it is to rehearse, the small tragedies of learning: you can play the song someone made of the accumulated moments of their fraught and fleeting life; you can practice and practice how to get it right, fingers flying through the frequencies of yearning, naming, and setting to song, and you can get it wrong, keening, shrieking, stumbling because they did not make it for you, not for this burnished room, its cylinders of fragmented light like bars for moths to wind through, its pockets of human darkness; they did not make it for concentration camp guards in their grey casings or a wife in the kitchen or a rich lady in a long red cloak, the sun coming in bearing its dust, baring its teeth and biting against the dark wood-paneling, the pain if it was pain

that was caused you, the pain if it is pain that’s unleashed now: the time that it took them to memorize this, the time that it takes to listen, here, to what the human brain can hold and what the heart.

dď ¤ Susannah Sharpless is a senior, graduating in June with a major in Religion and a Certificate in Poetry and Creative Writing. She comes from a long line of music lovers and has always loved music herself. When she was younger she studied both piano and cello. Though she listens to music constantly, she has been to very few concerts during her college career. The experience of hearing music live together with a large audience made a big impression on her. She said it took her a while to figure out what she wanted to write about but, ultimately, she was inspired by the contemporary works on the program (by Witold Lutoslawski, Kaija Sariaaho and especially Olivier Messiaen). She loves contemporary poetry and found that her knowledge of poetry gave her a way into thinking about the music. On a side note: audiences who attended this concert may remember that there was actually a moth flying high above the stage, in and out of the lights. Â

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